Sunday, July 19, 2015

Veiled: By Benedict Jacka



I thought I’d escaped my past. But my old master is back and making a new play for power. And he’s not the only one targeting me…

Diviner Alex Verus and the Council that governs the magical community have never gotten along. But with his former teacher back in Britain, Alex is in desperate need of allies, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get them—even if it means accepting a job with the Keepers, enforcing magical law.

Alex forms an uneasy alliance with his new partner, Caldera, but his attempt at legitimacy quickly turns lethal when a mission puts him in possession of an item that factions both inside and outside of the Council would kill to get their hands on.

Once again caught in the middle of a deadly conflict, Alex will need all his abilities to figure out who his friends are—especially when enemies are hiding on all sides…


Benedict Jacka has continued to impress me with every book in his Alex Verus series, and Veiled is no exception.

Jacka's Alex Verus series started out simple enough in the first book in the series, Fated. There were two camps of mages, dark and light, and the protagonist Alex Verus, was trained by a dark mage, but ran away choosing not to be involved in mage politics. It being an interesting series, Jacka quickly dispelled any illusion that Verus would be able to live a quiet and simple life minding his own business, after a series of decisions that quickly lead to flicking off the upper echelon of mage society, blackmail and even a few deaths along the way. These decisions have acted as the kindling throughout the series, leading Verus down a number of different rabbit holes in order to obtain his much sought after and yet never attainable goal of peace and quiet. This is, until Hidden, the fifth book in the Alex Verus series. After the events of Hidden, Jacka has changed Verus's motivation to that of an offense, leading Verus down a new set of actions (that I personally love) that will leave readers wanting more, as Jacka plays the long game in stringing out the repercussions of each book.

Of course, because Jacka plans on this series being a long one, Jacka had the insight years ago to keep the overarching plot of the series as a whole interesting and new from book to book. To do this Jacka has begun exploring the different aspects of mage politics. In Veiled readers are treated to their first in-depth look into the light mage political world and more specifically the Keepers, the police/enforcement branch of the mage governing body. Jacka does a superb exploring the conflicting interests that hinder this body of the law, and because of this, readers are treated to a true surplus of surprises. In fact, the development of the mage world itself is in my opinion, one of the best aspects of Jacka's series overall. It shakes up what readers thought they knew about the series and what will happen next while at the same time stops each book in the series from sounding exactly like the last, thus preventing readers from getting bored.

Another aspect of the series that Jacka has focused on that he has truly excelled at, is the development of side characters. Jacka has accomplished this feat by introducing side characters over the course of the series and then taking individual books to explore a single side character in significant detail, exploring their motivations and really bringing their actions and decisions to light. This allows Jacka to more fully utilize his cast of characters, developing them even when they are not under the microscope of their development book, and thus providing them with the ability to make more complex decisions that can effect the series as a while in a significant sense. 

In Veiled, the side character that is more fully flushed out is Caldera, an enforcer and Alex's partner/boss. Her further development coincides perfectly with the exploration of the Keeper's corner of the mage universe. Through this development, readers are treated into insights such as: why Caldera is respected by the Keepers and yet not promoted, Caldera's fears and insecurities, and even a brief glimpse into the potential changes that Alex's friendship and continued working relationship with her will bring to her world.

Of course, on top of great characters and the development of the plot and setting, readers will also be thrilled with the amount of action that Jacka has jam packed into Veiled. It comes as no surprise to fans of Jacka's other books that Veiled is filled with fantastic action scenes. This, coupled with the fact that Jacka is focusing on the enforcement aspect of the mage world, and it is no surprise that Veiled is filled with more than the average level of exciting action scenes for readers to behold. Now, that said, Jacka also does emphasize that most of Keeper's work is mundane and does not involve battles that that kill mundanes and mages alike at every turn. But because Jacka writes such great action scenes I was thrilled when there were no less than four (4) major fight/action scenes, with a smattering of side action events along the way as well, including a raid that truly highlights the awesome aspects of the magic in this world.

As you can probably tell I am a huge fan of Benedict Jacka's writing and this series as a whole. As such, I have no trouble recommending this truly thrilling installment in the Alex Verus series to just about anyone. Veiled is filled with pulse pounding action, superb characters and just the right combination of mystery and dread to keep readers hooked until the very last pages. This coupled with Jacka's superb writing ability and the series' fascinating overall story arc, which becomes more complex and sophisticated with each book, and it is no surprise that I eagerly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of urban fantasy, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, and/or Stephen Blackmoore.


Publisher: Ace

Published: August 4, 2015 

Price: $7.99

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Half a War: By Joe Abercrombie



Words are weapons.

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. If she is to reclaim her birthright, she must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge.

Only half a war is fought with swords.

The deeply cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head—a man who worships only Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.

Some—like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith—are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others—like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver—would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her irons wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.


I have been a fan of Joe Abercrombie since he first wrote his First Law Trilogy back in 2009. Abercrombie is famous for being one of the founding fathers of Grimdark Fantasy, meaning his books are dark, full of amoral characters, and full of violence. Because of this, I had no idea how he was going to transition his writing style into that of a young adult fantasy trilogy, which the Shattered Sea series is.

I should have never worried.

Abercrombie proves his mastery in his chosen field as an author with the Shattered Sea series. Not only has Abercrombie retained a high level of action and intrigue, but he has also retained the complexity of characters and character development that originally drew so much attention to his First Law Trilogy. Villains are portrayed as heres, heroes act in a villainous fashion, and everything in between. My personal favorite characters in the series were Brand and Kroll, as both of these characters were plagued with indecision as to whether greatness by traditional methods or a quiet life  with the possibility of happiness was their goal, and the waring risks and plights that came with each of these decisions in obtaining these goals. That said, fans of Breaking Bad will absolutely love Abercrombie's books whether the be adult or young adult.

Oc course, an issue that had only been hinted at in previous books in the series, but is much more thoroughly addressed in Half a War, are the Elf Relics. These relics and their ruins and the history associated with them are positively jaw dropping in what they reveal, to the point that while I don't want to give anything away, I will say that after completing this final book in the trilogy that I went back to the beginning to re-read the series because of the stark change in light that this information reveals.

All in all, I loved Half a War and the entire Shattered Sea Series, and readers of all ages will find themselves swept away by this story. The characters develop and are plagued with conflicts and indecision, the plot is fast paced, filled with intrigue, and non stop action, and the writing is just plan superb. That said, if you are looking for a book where  everyone ends up happy and there are clear cut good guys and bad guys, with easy decisions, that's fine, but then this is not the book for you. However if you're looking for a book that will keep you up all night finishing it, and will leave you staring at the last pages wanting to know more, then readers need not look any further.


Publisher: Del Rey

Published: July 28, 2015

Price: $26.00

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